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Is it really possible to fly roundtrip from Chicago to Europe for under $500? Budget airlines say it is, but they also make us wonder: Is the price we’re being quoted the total cost? What sacrifices do we have to make to fly from LA to NYC for under $200? And just who are these budget airlines many of us have never heard of before? We asked CheapTickets Senior Communications Manager Mel Dohmen to answer some of our most burning budget airlines questions.

RELATED: 12 budget-friendly babymoon ideas

What are some of the most popular budget airlines?

Spirit Airlines is one of the biggest budget air carriers in the U.S. with bases in Chicago, Las Vegas, Dallas and Orlando. Frontier Airlines out of Denver is also gaining notoriety for its no-frills model.

Internationally, Norwegian Air is one of the major players right now with incredibly affordable fares to Europe, Scandinavia and parts of Asia.

Dublin-based Ryanair is a name U.S. travelers to Europe will also recognize. They specialize in low-cost airfares and are known for flying in and out of smaller or secondary airports like London Stansted.

Frequent travelers to Mexico and Central America will also be familiar with Volaris for its budget fares to hotspots throughout the region.

In light of the recent turmoil with WOW air (as of March 2019, the airline is officially no more), it’s worth noting that sites like CheapTickets do continue to make budget carriers, along with hundreds of others, available to customers but we do monitor the financial health of partner carriers closely.

Are there any that you would particularly recommend?

Travelers can find amazing deals to many bucket list destinations around the globe, whether it’s a budget airline or not. While these carriers may be synonymous with value, I wouldn’t discount keeping your options open and staying flexible. It all just depends on where you want to go and when it fits your schedule.

Interior of airplane with passengers on seats waiting to taik off. Horizontal composition. boring flight in economy class aircraft salon. economy class

What are some of the sacrifices travelers commonly make when flying budget airlines?

Budget travelers are often willing to make significant trade-offs to save money throughout their travel journey, and that is certainly no exception with budget airfare carriers. It’s important to know what you’re getting into when you purchase. Expect no frills and to be charged for everything. If you go in with those expectations, you should be fine.

Do you have any “hacks” for making budget flights more comfortable?

My biggest tip is to do your research so you aren’t surprised by what you will and won’t be expected to pay extra for, especially if you are flying international. Most budget carriers are very strict about luggage allowances, and baggage sizes and weights may be different than what U.S. travelers are accustomed to. So always check the guidelines and weigh your bag before getting to the airport. I had a coworker once check a piece of luggage that was a few pounds over the weight restriction and had to pay $160 for a two-hour flight!

Beyond that, there are some tried and true tricks travelers often recommend on these no-frills flights.

  • Bring your own entertainment. People are often surprised when budget airlines don’t offer in-flight entertainment. Pre-download TV shows on your phone through Netflix and wear your headphones onto the plane to save space in your carry on.
  • BYOB food and beverages, too. Bring a water bottle on board and pack light snacks in your pockets. I’ve even heard of travelers preparing a protein shake in their water bottle for an extra healthy snack.
  • Make your heaviest items your personal items. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane like a heavy winter coat, boots or warm layers. Most carriers also won’t weigh your personal item, so stash heavy things like shoes or toiletries in there if you can.
  • Bring empty tote bags. Save on suitcase space by stashing your bulky layers in an empty tote bag on the return trip home. Plus, they are handy for grocery shopping, storing road trip snacks, separating laundry and buying duty-free airport beer.

Are there certain types of trips where you would recommend flying a budget airline?

Budget carriers are great for solo travelers but often less so for couples or families. One way budget airlines make their money back is by charging you extra if you want to sit with others in your party. Thankfully, parents traveling in the U.S. with kids under 13 don’t have to worry about this since Congress passed legislation in 2016 that mandates airlines seat young kids with their parents or caregivers at no extra charge.

Hand-luggage compartment with suitcases in airplane. Carry-on luggage on top shelf of plane. Travel concept with copy space.

What considerations should travelers make when deciding whether or not to fly a budget airline?

Calculate costs for seating and baggage before you book to make sure you won’t actually be paying more. CheapTickets.com and other online travel sites like Orbitz or Expedia notify customers throughout the booking process about what is and isn’t included in a ticket. That’s important because while a roundtrip flight from Austin to Denver for less than $100 may sound like a good deal, if you end up paying for bags and seat assignments later you may not be saving all that much more money.

Some people may be concerned that budget airlines aren’t as safe. What is your response to this?

The price of a ticket has no correlation to customer safety. Budget airlines must follow the same FAA regulations and safety guidelines as any other carrier. For peace of mind, various organizations report on airline safety, so you can easily research a particular airline online.

In general, would you say it’s worth it to fly budget airlines?

Travelers should consider what trade-offs they are really willing to make on their next trip. Booking a no-frills airline is certainly one way to save, but vacationers can also stay on budget with low-cost lodging, activities, public transportation and much more.

Young woman at the airport, on the escalator

Anything else travelers should know about flying budget?

Layovers help international budget carriers like Norwegian and Ryanair keep costs low, but that can come with drawbacks. Make sure you’ve booked enough time between connecting flights and have their customer service number ready in your phone. It’s always safer to ask and call someone than assume you’ll automatically be re-booked.

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Tagged: Tips & advice

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Punta Cana is one of the Caribbean’s hottest destinations for a reason. Fantastic beaches, over-the-top pools, rainforests, history, culture and of course the Brugal family rum that’s been flowing since 1888. Add wind surfing, ziplining, sailing, kayaking and golf to the mix, and this could be just about anyone’s dream vacation. Fortunately, Punta Cana is also famous for its variety of resorts, so whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, family trip, guy or gals adventure, or even a solo vacation, you’re likely to find something to fit your budget—even if it’s a modest one. Here’s a look at some of Punta Cana’s best all-inclusive resorts that offer big value at a great price. And to get an even better deal, be sure to check out our latest sales and promo code here.

RELATED: 10 things you shouldn’t miss in Nassau and Paradise Island

Photo courtesy of Barcelo Bavaro Grand Resort

Barceló Bávaro Grand Resort

Who doesn’t like a two-fer? That’s what you get at Barcelo Bávaro Grand Resort, set on two miles of white sand on one of Punta Cana’s most beloved beaches, Bávaro. For families, there’s the Barceló Bávaro Palace and for something more romantic, there’s Barceló Bávaro Beach – Adults Only. Check into one hotel and you can enjoy what the other has to offer as well. That’s no small matter when you consider that Barceló Bávaro Palace features a Club House Entertainment District, a shopping promenade, 24-hour sports bar, 24-hour casino, world-class spa and other amenities. Moms and dads looking for some some quality couple time can reserve one of the property’s babysitters and then sneak off to Barceló Bávaro Beach – Adults Only. There’s also a Kids Club for young ones, while teens can enjoy bowling, mini golf, a wave pool, laser tag and teen disco. Budget: Prices start at $200/night

Photo courtesy of Iberostar Dominicana All-Inclusive

Iberostar Dominicana All-Inclusive

Can you believe there’s a 5-star beachfront all-inclusive starting at under $100 a night? You’ve got to see the Iberostar Dominicana to believe it. Located on the perfect waters of Playa Bávaro, the property features tropical gardens, a spa, shopping, supermarket, pharmacy, casinos, live shows, waterparks and more. At Star Camp, kids ages 4 to 12 get the chance to ham it up in an improvised video clip, take on group projects like creating a large scale work of art or challenging themselves to scientific experiments to create snow. Feast at five a la carte restaurants, featuring international, Asian, Italian and Dominican cuisines. Then, work it off at the fitness center or by scuba diving or playing tennis. Budget: Prices start at $91/night

Photo courtesy of Ocean Blue and Sand Beach Resort

Ocean Blue & Sand Beach Resort

They aim to please at Ocean Blue & Sand. Water babies will be besides themselves with kayaking, windsurfing and sailing. If you’re interested in diving but inexperienced, there are in-pool scuba demonstrations. Much to divers’ delight, there’s also a PADI diving center. If the beach isn’t your thing, there are four pools, including two with Jacuzzis—in case you tire of the one in your room. Feeling adventurous? There’s a climbing wall on the beach. If not, bike or play tennis. Kids and teens can do their own thing with their own clubs on property. Come together for dinner at one of eight restaurants serving up American, Mexican or Caribbean cuisines, and more. Budget: Prices start at $160/night

ALSO: Sign up for CheapCash and add even more savings to these stellar resort deals!

Photo courtesy of AlSol Luxury Village

AlSol Luxury Village

AlSol will feel like home sweet home with its villa-style suites. You have your choice of a European Plan (that’s lodging only) or an all-inclusive option. The 4-star resort is next to downtown Punta Cana and San Juan Shopping Center. You’re also close to the Cap Cana Marina, Juanillo Beach and Punta Espada Golf Course. If you want to just hang out enjoying your individually decorated suite that includes a kitchen with full-size refrigerators and stovetops, plus a private patio, do so. The spa, four pools, nightclub, five restaurants and fitness center will keep you busy and relaxed, without the financial stress of a splurge. Budget: Prices start at $145/night

Photo courtesy of Breathless Punta Cana Resort and Spas Adults Only All Inclusive

Breathless Punta Cana Resort & Spas Adults Only All Inclusive

Party people, this is your place in the sun. While a bit more of a splurge compared to some of the other resorts mentioned here, Breathless delivers when it comes to non-stop opportunities to eat, drink, dance and be merry. If you’d rather just chill, no worries: There’s a poolside DJ  keeping the music and momentum going there, while back at the beach, you can relax in a cabana with a cocktail or unwind at the spa. When hunger calls, there are 11 restaurants. As for thirst, try the curated cocktails and eight bars and lounges. An added plus: Free access to 10 bars and 10 restaurants with Exchange Privileges next door at Now Onyx Punta Cana. Budget: Prices start at $280/night

Photo courtesy of Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana

Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana

Do as much or as little as you like at Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana. Kids have the Explorer’s Club that focuses on exploration and science, as well as a weekly camping adventure on the beach, freeing parents for the night. Teens have their own space where they can play games, sports and stand around awkwardly at disco mixers. Take advantage of non-stop activities during the day, nightly shows and theme parties, or stay poolside and keep the servers busy with your cocktail requests. Venture off the resort if you like, with day trips to Catalina Island for snorkeling and diving, Scape Park for its caverns, caves and ziplining. Budget: Prices start at $165/night

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Tagged: Beach, California, Destinations, International, Top 10 list, Types of Travel, Vacation packages

Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl Nance-Nash

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Before you trade in that student ID for a corporate badge, here are seven affordable destinations where the dress code is nothing but casual. From hiking volcanoes to snorkeling with technicolor underwater life to kicking back with a cold beer, these destinations are safe and easy on the wallet.

RELATED: 9 gorgeous European hostels starting at $4

Reykjavik, Iceland
The post-graduation month of June is a great time to visit the Land of Fire and Ice, where the temperatures are pleasant (mid-50s) and the days are long (think midnight sunsets and 3am sunrises!). Reykjavik is a hotspot for thrill-seeking Millennials with a long list of never-ending adventures like snowmobiling, glacier hiking, descending into a volcano and, of course, Reykjavik nightlife. Budget-conscious travelers will appreciate that it’s a small, walkable city with hop on/off buses as another great way to get around. Reykjavik Excursions offers “bus passports” with routes all around and outside of the city, including a loop of the island.

Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s abundant natural landscape offers tons of free outdoor activities like hiking through the cloud forests and coffee plantations of Monteverde, where you’ll likely spot a few monkeys. If you want to experience the death-defying forest zipline, it will cost you a pretty penny.  Save your money and take a bus to Playa Tamarindo, where you can surf all day and party all night. The Tiquicia Lodge in bustling San Jose offers great budget accommodations with breakfast included. Plan to eat at sodas, local family-run restaurants that serve a hearty plate of Costa Rican cuisine for just a few bucks.

Phuket, Thailand
With more than 36 sandy beaches, where all you need is a towel and snorkel gear, Phuket is a beachlover’s dream. After you save up for big-ticket airfare, the rest of your trip will be an incredible bargain, including Tint at Phuket Town, a great budget hotel. Here, you’ll find free Internet for uploading all those great photos and checking in on social media. Tasty street food vendors let you fill your belly on a dime. If you’re looking for an inexpensive day trip, take the ferry to Phi Phi Island or visit the marine national park at Phang Nga.

Grindelwald, Switzerland
Spend a week in the most picturesque spot in Europe, the Jungfrau Region, where the only gear you need are hiking shoes. While Switzerland is generally pretty expensive, the Mountain Hostel won’t break your budget, and is the perfect jumping off spot for the region’s multitude of challenging hiking trails. Make sure to visit Gletscherschlucht, a glacial gorge with walking paths and waterfalls. You’ll need to purchase a Swiss Pass to explore the area via trains and cable cars. If you’re able to indulge a bit, add the world-famous Top of Europe Tour to your pass, a cogwheel train that takes you to the highest station in Europe that will leave you with views that last a lifetime.

ALSO: Earn CheapCash and see the whole world for less.

Cairns, Australia
Put all those science credits to use and visit the Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. You might be surprised to hear that snorkeling the reef is not only cheaper, but offers the same breathtaking experience as a more expensive scuba dive. Half Day Tours offers budget excursions that will transport you to the best areas. If you blow your budget on this once-in-a-lifetime experience, spend the rest of your trip taking advantage of the free offerings in this part of Queensland. On the Esplanade, for example, right in the city center, there’s a picturesque lagoon that’s a great place to cool off and wile away the day listening to live music. A short drive from Cairns, you’ll find Stoney Creek Falls, a free secret hideaway nestled within the rainforest featuring fresh water swimming holes, rock jumps and waterfalls.

Rocky Mountain National Parks Tour
If airfare isn’t in your post-graduation budget, gas up your car, grab a backpack and head west. If you’re looking to rough it and experience the great outdoors, the Northern Rockies are the place to go. Plan to spend a couple of days in each park, starting at the local park ranger station where you can take advantage of free daily guided walks to get a lay of the land. Grand Teton National Park has more hiking trails than you can conquer and is dotted with lakes, canyons and peaks. Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, offers a different kind of wild life than you saw in college—you’ll see everything from bears to buffalo. Stay at the historic, yet budget-friendly Old Faithful Inn (book early), the largest log structure in the world, where you can actually watch Old Faithful erupt from the cafeteria. End this epic adventure at Glacier National Park and spend the night in an authentic tepee at the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

The Florida Keys
Margaritaville awaits you along the 113-mile stretch of the Overseas Highway, where you’ll see some of the state’s most picturesque beaches, kitschy roadside attractions and old-school seafood shacks. Trade in your travel itinerary for flip-flops because the Keys give casual a whole new meaning. Plan to stop on a whim anywhere along the route and chances are you’ll find a roadside stand where you can snorkel, kayak or enjoy a cold beer. Walk across famous Seven Mile Bridge connecting the Middle and Lower Keys because the turquoise blue waters make the perfect selfie backdrop. Drop your gear at the Seashell Motel & Hostel or NYAH in Key West and head for the beach to swim with sea turtles, nurse sharks, parrot fish and spiny lobsters along the shallow reefs. If you’re not burned out on history, visit the Ernest Hemingway House and hang with six-toed cats, actual descendants of Hemingway’s beloved felines.

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Tagged: Beach, City, Florida, International

Beth Graham

Beth Graham

Beth Graham

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